A quick overview of how unhappy customers are getting back at brands and why it is very important for brands to win back these customers.
Since we started in September 2010, we have been filing consumer complaints for angry customers against various brands – as we do more of this, we are learning some interesting things. Currently, the ways in which complaints are resolved are highly negative for both the customer and the company.
People who are unhappy with your company will do one or more of the following things:
1. Take their business to someone else
The higher management does not realize how often this happens – how the lower levels of their organization interact with the customer, how the aspirations they set in their marketing campaigns are not met when the customer interacts with the brand. This is by far the most common behaviour amongst unhappy customers.
As you can make out from this tweet, HSBC just shot itself in the foot – a customer that they took a lot of time, effort and money to acquire just shifted to a competitor when HSBC should have started benefiting from the lifetime value of the customer. This person is someone with 5000+ followers on Twitter (influence), is a successful Indian entrepreneur (high networth) and would talk to other people about his experience (negative word of mouth).
Take any segment and there is so much competition with ready/better alternatives available to each customer. From online travel, e-commerce sites, to insurance companies, banks, and now even telecom with MNP (mobile number portability), it is foolish to upset your customer.
2. Vent it out on consumer forums
Just one look at forums like www.consumercomplaints.in will tell you that there are tons of customers who are unhappy. Websites like these are a good venting place – consumers come and post their complaints in the hope that others will know about their complaint and maybe someone from the company will notice as well.
All in all, what happens is that tons of people go to these free websites, complain about different products and services, and the website owner makes money by placing banner ads and Google ads next to their keyword rich content. (Sometimes, while reading a complaint against Dell, the Google ad served by Google Adsense could suggest you to buy a Dell laptop – talk about bad timing!).
If want to check the bad PR against your brand, just search for “<brand name> complaints”. And as if the bad PR wasn’t damaging your brand enough, Google recently changed its algorithm to take into account negative posts about a company and blogged about it.
Here is an example:
3. File a consumer complaint in a district forum
A small minority of the unhappy customers do end up filing customer complaints against companies (though there are no proper statistics available, our educated guess is that at least 1.5 lakh customer complaints were filed last year). It is a complete lose-lose situation for the company. If the customer wins, he will know that he was right all along (and the press will receive a copy of the district forum’s judgement, plus the company might have to pay compensation and costs). If the customer loses, well, he/she will hate the company even more and the negative word of mouth will not stop. Generally, Delhi consumer forums are really friendly towards customers and a high percentage of the cases are decided in the consumer’s favour.
Remember: People in all three categories create a lot of negative word of mouth for your company – which can result in long term damage for your company. Another friend who recently bought a Dell laptop, which turned out to be crappy, makes it a point to tell everyone around to not buy a Dell laptop – he will end up taking away 50+ customers from Dell in the next year or two (i.e. sales of about Rs.15,00,000) – without counting the network effect.
So what is the answer? Well, there is no magic bullet. We are trying to work with consumers and brands to find ways of solving some aspects of this problem but the onus lies on the companies to take complaints seriously, realize how harmful they can be for their business and win back the customers.
Next week: More on how Akosha is trying solve some aspects of this problem.
File your consumer complaint here.